We were in the Cotswolds for a wedding earlier this year and the morning of the wedding found my with little to do while everyone was getting ready. I was only 30 minutes or so from the old RAF airfield of Kemble, now Cotswolds Airport. Surely it would be churlish to not take a look since I was killing time? Kemble has quite a lot of interest and will mean there are several posts to come. The first will focus on one of the largest residents.
British Airways painted three of its 747s in retro liveries. The jets had different interior configurations which meant they were used on specific routes. I got to shoot the BOAC jet and the Landor jet when they came to Seattle but I never saw the Negus jet. When BA retired the 747 fleet during the pandemic, the Negus jet apparently made its way to Kemble to become a venue rather than get reduced to parts and scrap metal. However, I didn’t know this.
Consequently, I was rather surprised to find the jet sitting there as I drove up to the airport main buildings. There are other 747s stored on the field at Kemble but this one is very accessible. It was early in the day when I arrived so I could wander around unfettered but there were already crews showing up to bring in fixtures for an event that they were going to be hosting. Renting out a 747 for an event sound like just the sort of thing I would do! I was very pleasantly surprised to see the third of the retro jets and to see it in such good condition. (Sure, they have a few nacelle panels that have been switched around but it still seems in good shape.)
Nothing too special about this post. I was out at Boeing Field for the flights of Sentimental Journey but the traffic to SEA was passing overhead. Most traffic is domestic but you do get the international movements too. In this case, I got three 787s in very short order. They came from British Airways, JAL and ANA. I figured they could have their own post so here you go.
If you were to ask people what characteristic Seattle would be known for, I suspect a fair few people would tell you it is rain. It is true that we have damp winters here but summers (while a little late in starting) are actually rather dry. However, we can still have some humid conditions which can be good for forming vapor and, if you watch the jets heading in to SEA, you will often see vortices streaming off the flaps and the occasional puffs of moisture above the wings.
Occasionally, the conditions are just right and you get a lot more vapor. Better still, if this happens in sunny conditions and the planes are slightly backlit, you can get some lovely rainbow effects showing up. I got lucky with one such day. Asiana had an A350 coming in at this time so I was treated to some interesting effects. A Lufthansa 747 and CargoLogic 777F also arrived but I decided to go with video on those to show off the fleeting nature of the vapor is it formed and dissipated.
Aviation enthusiasts are an odd bunch. They love aviation but they can really hate certain types. The emotions can really run high and no type exemplifies this more than the A380. The project hasn’t been a success by modern standards and production has now ended. This provides much glee for some people for some reason. I’m not sure why they feel the lack of success for a plane makes their life better but whatever.
I have flown on the A380 a couple of times and it was a great experience. I always like seeing them. Variety is sadly lacking in modern aviation and anything different is welcome as far as I am concerned. The onset of the pandemic resulted in many airlines parking all sorts of types and the A380s were clearly a target. If there are no passengers, the largest capacity jet is not going to be helpful. The death of the A380 was widely proclaimed. However, it turns out that this was a bit premature.
A few airlines have been reinstating their fleets and more are coming back out of storage. British Airways has their fleet back in action. Emirates is using theirs heavily. At Heathrow, I also saw Qatar and Qantas using theirs again. (Qatar might be more related to their spat with Airbus over A350s and the need for any capacity they can get.) It is good news that they are still around. We shall see what the future brings for some of the other jets that are still stored.
Shooting at an airport you don’t normally get to shoot at means you have the opportunity to shoot airlines that you wouldn’t see otherwise. What can be even nicer is if you get a special livery on one of these jets. (There is a small element in the back of your head that worries about not having shot the normal livery and that you still won’t have because of the special but that churlish thought needs to be suppressed!) Three of the jets coming in from overseas were in special finishes as was one of the locals. British Airways had an A320neo in a paint finish that was sky blue. I actually watched it depart too when waiting to board my flight home.
Kenya Airways flies their 787s in to London. The jet that came in on this day had a graphic of rhinos on the rear fuselage. Not a totally different livery but a nice addition. Brussels Airlines flies their A320s in to Heathrow and the airframe I saw was in a Tintin scheme that covered the whole airframe. It looked really good. Royal Jordanian was the last of my specials. Its 787 had a graphic advertising the city of Petra which covered the side of the jet. All nice efforts by the respective airlines.
The Embraer E190 is the most common airframe to be seen flying in to LCY these days. British Airways’ Cityflyer operation uses a bunch of them on its services. Anything flying in to LCY needs to be approved for steep approaches. This usually involves a modification to the controls for a steep descent mode. As I watched the E190s descending on the approach, I could see that the spoilers were deployed all the way down. I assume that this is a higher drag configuration that makes the descent angle needed achievable while controlling the speed.
The thing that was more impressive than the descent profile was the departures. The runway at LCY is not long. Watching the jets spool up for departure, I wondered how much of the runway that they would use. As it turned out, they rotated really quickly and the climb out angle was very steep. With the buildings of Canary Wharf ahead, they need to climb quickly but I was quite taken by just how fast they climbed.
I wanted to explore some parts of London that I haven’t been too much before so I headed east. Before I started getting my real exploration underway, though, I took a visit to London City Airport. I haven’t been there for years and things have changed a lot including the types that can access the airport. I had seen some photos from the airport but I wasn’t sure about the options for photographing there. I was also not timing it well with things being far busier in the early morning and late afternoon. Still, it was worth a visit.
I headed to the east of the airfield where a road bridge crosses the water. I was hoping that this would give a good view down the runway but the runway lights obscured things a little. An offset helped a bit. It also was a good location for some approach shots.
I then headed back towards the terminal and got some touchdown shots from alongside the runway as well as a few shots of jets taxiing out and departing. It was quite something to see the Embraer E190s climbing out so quickly. They got airborne very swiftly and climbed away like homesick angels. The majority of traffic was British Airways Cityflyer Express so not that much variety but a few bizjets came through too.
Later in the day,when crossing the Thames in the Cable Car, I got a good view down towards the runway. It would have been great if a jet had taken off while I was crossing but one took off just after I got back on the ground. As I walked to the Excel center, I saw a high level footbridge that looked like it might have a good alignment with the runway. I planned to check it out later but, having spent a long time with a friend and needing to get back, I completely forgot until it was too late. If anyone knows whether this spot works, please let me know.
One of the things I was looking forward to seeing at Heathrow was A350s in new liveries. I have seen a lot of A350s but I have never seen the British Airways and Virgin Atlantic A350-1000s and, since they are based at Heathrow, I figured I would get a chance. As we landed and taxied in, I saw both operators’ aircraft but, because of where I was sitting, I wasn’t able to get any shots. The end of the journey and the return to Heathrow allowed me to address that.
I got to shoot an arriving BA jet while outside the airport and there were some parked up on the gates when we were getting ready to board our flights. Virgin was a bit more elusive. I could see one parked up behind a Cathay 777 but that was it. Other operators were also helping out though. Amongst the arriving jets were examples from Malaysian Airlines, Finnair and Iberia. All nice additions to the A350 collection for me.
British Airways was an early customer for the 787 when Boeing launched it in the form of the 787-8 and has been growing the fleet ever since. They now operate the -8, the -9 and the -10 versions. Their introduction allowed the retirement of the 767-300 fleet so the 787s are now the smallest of the widebodies (although the 787-10 has similar capacity to a 777-200ER). In Seattle, we tend to get the 787-9 or an occasional 787-10. However, Portland gets the 787-8 so, when I got to shoot one there, it was the first time I had seen a BA -8 in ages. They look quite stubby in comparison to the rest of the family.
I was running back through some older shots while experimenting with some processing techniques and was looking at some British Airways 747-400 shots. With them now retired from BA service, it was a moment of reflection to see the shots again. It was also a departure sequence which meant there was a good view of the way in which the QOTS main gear tucked away. A cool looking sequence but a lot less common these days. Thank goodness for the freighters and the remaining passenger jets.